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Newspapers and Magazines by Home Computer

From the video:

Engineers now predict the day will come when we get all our newspapers and magazines by home computer, but that's a few years off. So for the moment at least, this fellow [video of a newspaper vendor] isn't worried about being out of a job.

Twenty-eight years later, he's finally starting to worry.

(via NSLog();)

More on "Lessig for Congress"

Ars Technica has a great article today on Professor Lessig's potential run for Congress that I mentioned yesterday. The article does an excellent job of outlining Lessig's platform in far better detail than the one sentence I gave it. What's particularly interesting about his position is his desire to build a Creative Commons in Congress, where "[i]f politicians begin foreswearing PAC money, the theory runs, voters may come to see the failure to refuse lobbyist dollars as a badge of shame rather than simply the way things are done." This sounds like a very necessary change and requires the proverbial "Washington outsider" to really get going - Lessig is that outsider. Further, the article elaborates on the difference between Lessig and his greatest rival in the race, Jackie Speier. Lessig mentions that there aren't many differences, but that a focus on technology would give him an edge and that even though many prominent California Democrats have thrown their support behind Speier, the rush to consolidate support has frustrated voters who want more options. As I said yesterday, I can't wait to see how this plays out.

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Lessig May Run For Congress

I wrote about Professor Larry Lessig's shift in focus from Free Culture to corruption in Washington when he gave his last Free Culture talk. Since then, a seat has opened up in Congress as a result of the death of California Congressman Tom Lantos. Lessig posted on his weblog earlier today that a Facebook group and the draftlessig08.org website have caused him to actually consider running.

I think Lessig has a great chance of winning thanks to support from the tech community. Having him in Congress would not only be excellent for his next project, but would also help along causes that current Congress members are either too tech illiterate or too influenced by money to really address the right way (one such cause being Net Neutrality).

There's no word on when he'll make a decision, but along with the rest of the tech community, I wait with bated breath.

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Larry Lessig's Last Free Culture Talk

Larry Lessig will be giving his last talk on the topic of "Free Culture" in about an hour. I had the pleasure of seeing Professor Lessig give this talk in September of 2006 as part of the Penn Reading Project and I think the ideas he presents are fascinating and have had a great impact on me. We've come a long way in some areas, such as in the slow death of over-restrictive DRM, but we're still a ways to go in other areas, such as the predatory litigation undertaken by the music and movie industries. As the blog post announcing the talk mentions, Professor Lessig will begin focusing on corruption in Washington, a topic I'm admittedly less interested in.

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My Data, Your Data and Our Data

Mr Scoble is making headlines again, this time for getting kicked off of Facebook (now he's back in, although I wonder if someone not as high-profile been given the same luxury?). He got caught scraping data off of Facebook using a feature of Plaxo Pulse, a competing social network. I'm all for data portability, but this of course raised the question of who actually owns the data in your social graph.

Clearly what came out of this is that it's no one's data but Facebook's. It's clear they control access to it, so there's nothing stopping them from keeping it from you. After all, Robert wasn't just restricted from accessing the data he was scraping, he was also restricted from accessing his own profile, including photos, videos and other content that no one would argue he doesn't own. And it's in Facebook's interest to make it their own. Their top two (only two?) competitive advantages are closed access and momentum and the former drives the latter.

Facebook is being pulled from opposite sides by the push for open access and by the necessity to ensure privacy. They get in trouble for not doing enough of both even though the means to achieving both are often at odds. To that extent, there are three levels of open access Facebook (or any social network, for that matter) could offer while maximizing privacy for those who require it:

My Data
First things first, let me pull my own data out - my list of favorite music, my photos, my videos, etc. I let the network borrow it and I have a right to take it back (and take it with me). Furthermore, all of this is stand-alone data and does not reveal any information about my social graph. My pictures might reveal other people in my social graph, but tagged friend data is explicit revelation of that shared data and doesn't come along for the ride at this level.

Our Data
Second, let me pull out my links. This is shared data, but since the existence of the link is usually public knowledge and doesn't reveal any real identifying information other than your name, letting me take this data with me is probably okay in most circumstances. It would be safe, though probably unpopular, to make this shared data opt-out instead of opt-in.

Your Data
Finally, there's your information. This was the stuff Scoble was pulling out en masse and rightfully got in trouble for. I can take your favorite movies to my Netflix buddy list or your work info to my LinkedIn network, but only if you let me. Here's the kicker though: I have to let you have my data too. I shouldn't be able to post your pictures on HotOrNot (or explicitly say you're you in one of my pictures) unless I give you the ability to do the same.

Facebook doesn't currently let anyone do any of this. It's easy enough to get away with grabbing my own data, although it comes out in a non-standard format. Pulling out my links is a still quite trivial, though somewhat useless given the current state of things (meaning I can't do much with just your name and there isn't much to do even if I could). Robert proved it's feasible but risky to pull your data. For all Facebook knows all 5000 of his friends would happily let him have their email addresses and birthdays.

It's clear that a solution that maintains privacy and provides open access exists, I came up with one in less than an hour (though admittedly implementing it is a huge task). The problem isn't that a creepy old (just kidding on both counts :-p) blogger wants to wish me a happy birthday. The problem is that under the guise of protecting privacy, Facebook continues to block open access to data that wants to be free when all they're really doing is protecting their business model.

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Google Owns Most Of My Life And It Scares Me

Google's acquisition of FeedBurner earlier this week adds one more piece of my life to Google's servers. I currently keep personal data or rely on: FeedBurner, Gmail, Google Reader, Google Calendar, AdSense and Docs & Spreadsheets. I'm taking a lot of risk on by relying on Google for so much of my personal life. The same as if my hard drive were to crash, if Google were to go bye-bye some day, I'd be out of a lot of data.

Offline, I protect myself by backing up my data, storing data on multiple drives and storing data online. So why don't I afford myself the same protection online? The primary reason is that any way to backup my online data is cumbersome, and more importantly, not automatic. Another reason is that backup is only half of the equation; what about restore? There's no non-hacked-together way to restore data to most online services and so the ability to backup is pretty much pointless.

So where does this leave us? At the very least, should I be looking to spread my data across many companies? Does the increased survivability risk of an early-stage startup offset the diversifiable risk of keeping my data on one provider?

All this talk of Apollo, Silverlight, RIAs and the like makes us feel good about the future of web apps, but what about the boring stuff like backup and data portability? Open APIs are a step in the right direction, but most people don't want to have to deal with writing scripts and implementing their own backup system - they want it simple and seamless. Is there a solution in the works? What are you all doing to backup your online life (or are you not)?

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BarCamp Miami and the Desire for Local News

BarCamp Miami took place yesterday at the University of Miami. I didn't go since I'm in Philly, but the BarCamp Miami site has a good list (though without a doubt not exhaustive) of Miami bloggers.

I'm currently subscribed to a few Miami-related RSS feeds but I am not nearly getting the amount of local news from South Florida as I'd like. I avoid those cityname.com (such as miami.com) sites like the plague, mainly because you get a few story views before having to register (ugh!), and Yahoo provides a Miami Herald RSS feed that leaves something to be desired (I want full feeds and less on murders, car accidents, etc), so hopefully I can get a bit more from these local bloggers.

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The More You Know: Amazon and "obidos"

Almost every Amazon page has it (correction: had it), but not many actually know what "obidos" really means. Luckily for the curious, the now defunct Google Answers has the answer.

According to someone who supposedly worked at Amazon:

Obidos is the area where the Amazon is "concentrated" - it narrows to
a point about a mile wide and a couple hundred feet deep. It's the
chokepoint of the Amazon. A wry sense of humor turned that to the
naming scheme.

Amazon wrote their own web serving environment because the selection
of scripting/webcontrol languages when they got started was so lousy.
They had to call it something, so obidos it was. :)

So there you have it…

TMYK

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The More You Know: Microsoft and "1033"

I've seen the number in various install directories for Microsoft products. This shot of a Windows Vista retail box shows the very special number in the URL in the 2nd paragraph and my interest was suddenly rekindled.

According to this MSDN blog, the number is the local identifier for "English (United States)" based on a formula described in the post.

So there you have it…

TMYK

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Larry Lessig Speaks at Penn

Larry Lessig spoke at Penn yesterday as part of the Penn Reading Project. His book, Free Culture, was given to all freshmen who were split up into discussion groups after Lessig's presentation. Penn Law professor Polk Wagner presented an opposing side. I was excited to see the famed Lessig presentation method in person and I hope Professor Lessig makes the presentation (or at least the links to the videos he showed) available.

I've got some pictures up on Flickr and here's a direct link to the audio.

Creative Commons License
This audio work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

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